LAS VEGAS, NV - Poker pro Ryan Laplante didn't expect to give a speech on Sunday when he accepted a gold bracelet for winning a major poker tournament in Las Vegas, but the mass shooting changed his mind.
Laplante, 26, took the stage with his fiance Chris Katona and teared up as he spoke.
"I am so proud to call myself a World Series of Poker Champion. I'm proud to call myself an openly gay man. I encourage all of you to be proud of who you are."
Laplante was raised in a small town in Minnesota and said that he did not have many role models who were gay growing up. He came out after high school. He said, "I just wanted to be completely open," and the poker community has always been very accepting.
He felt compelled to speak following the shooting in Orlando which targeted the gay community. He believes that the U.S. has made considerable progress, but we still have a ways to go.
He said that poker, by itself, doesn't add anything to the world. But when you win a bracelet, you get to have a moment. He takes that responsibility seriously.